Category: Society

Written by: N.S. Palmer | Posted on: | Category:

Back in the 1960s, the great rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote Who Is Man? based on lectures he gave at Stanford University.

But to ask "who is man?" assumes that we've' previously answered the question "what is man?"

If ...

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Is it okay to "trick people" for their own good?

That question comes up early in John Staddon's book The New Behaviorism. I've just started reading it, and it's a thought-provoking analysis.

Behaviorism is a psychological ...

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Tensions between America and China are as predictable as they are, well, stupid.

Their tensions are predictable for two reasons:

  • The United States and China are rival world powers, vying with each other for status and ...
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Life can be troubling, especially during periods of heated social conflict.

Politicians and the media are no help. Most now devote themselves to fomenting hatred and division.

Schools are no help. Most now devote themselves to replacing knowledge with superstition.

Giant ...

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A friend and I recently had a rational debate about abortion. Yes, rational debate is possible, even about touchy subjects.

Neither of us convinced the other, but we now understand each other better. Perhaps even more important, we confirmed that disagreement does not imply evil. Rational, well-meaning people can have clashing beliefs.

The ...

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"Latinx?"

What the heck is that? I see the word a lot lately.

I finally figured out why media people have started using it. A Latino is a male Hispanic. A Latina is a female Hispanic. The words look like they apply only to Hispanics from Latin America, not from Spain. Dunno.

So "Latinx" is ...

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"Give peace a chance" was what they said back in the Vietnam War era of the 1960s.

And what reasonable person could argue with it? War is something to avoid -- unless the alternative is even worse.

Those thoughts are prompted by two events this weekend.

First -- and for the first time -- I went back to my old high school ...

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Abortion isn't exactly a "third rail" of American politics, since people yell about it all the time.

But it is a third rail of rational discussion. Many people have dogmatic beliefs about it and they react with blind rage to any heretical disagreement.

The ...

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I've known a couple of people who these days would be called "transgender," though I'm not sure if they themselves would embrace the term.

Using the grammatical term "gender" as not-quite-a-synonym for "biological sex" creates an anti-concept ...

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According to aspiring Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, automation will soon eliminate countless millions of jobs. It will leave few opportunities for workers who are displaced.

There's no doubt that automation is eliminating jobs. ...

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Empiricism is the idea that beliefs should be based on observable evidence. It's one of the main reasons that our civilization has been successful.

Empiricism has given us science, medicine, and technology. It's given us choices and luxuries that people in previous centuries couldn't even imagine. It's enabled us to reduce extreme ...

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I got some reading glasses today.

However, they're not actually for reading. I can do that fine except with paperback Hebrew dictionaries, whose print is almost microscopic. I gave up on those a long time ago, and got a magnifying glass for them.

The reading glasses are for a tablet computer whose small screen gives me eyestrain. Apart ...

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I did something stupid today. I got mad at my phone.

And that's a big part of what's wrong with the world.

Not the fact that I got mad. I'm obviously not that powerful. And thank goodness that I'm not: If I were, at least half of the drivers on the road would have been vaporized by now.

But my phone continued playing ...

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"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried."
-- Winston Churchill

It's dinner time. You and your spouse decide to vote on dinner. Happily, you both love pizza with anchovies. The vote is unanimous. You're both very happy with the result.

A new couple moves ...

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I try to keep this blog non-political, and this blog post is no exception.

It's neither to support Joe Biden nor to denounce him. It's just about my own personal experiences and thoughts.

As most people know, Biden is preparing to run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. He was Obama's vice president, so he's got that going ...

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On his blog, philosopher Eric Kaplan posed a serious question (paraphrased here):

If our weapons can destroy all life on earth, can we still afford to believe in a God who plays favorites?

People sometimes claim that God is "... ...

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Power tends to corrupt us. So do privilege and status.

Of course, we like to believe that it happens only to other people. We could never be corrupted by power and privilege. We are too good for that.

Unfortunately, however, we're not too good for that. Almost anyone can be corrupted.

But did you ever think ...

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We are what we are. The only question is what we choose to do about it.

When I worked on Capitol Hill, I knew a political writer who was a nasty, hateful person.

Then he became a Christian.

And -- unlike other Christians I know -- he was a nasty, hateful Christian.

His conversion made no difference at all in his attitude. ...

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When you're a small child, you feel that everything is about you.

Your parents often encourage that delusion. They try to create a bubble where your needs are satisfied, your feelings are considered, and your safety is ensured. It's a bubble where fairness matters, and nothing very bad can happen. The more conscientious the parents, the worse ...

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People are crazy, and it seems to be getting worse.

In addition, many heavily-promoted news stories turn out to be false. The reasons are various.

There's a lot we can't do about the situation. But there are also things we can do. Here are some tips:

Emotional reaction is a red flag

If you react ...

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"Every person you meet knows something that you don't know."

That was one of my grandfather's favorite adages.

He died when I was quite young, so I don't remember him well. I remember his appearance, his book-lined study, his beloved pipe, and the top left drawer of his desk that always had a fresh bag of M&Ms ...

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"Put not your trust in princes," advises the Bible.

I would add "put not your trust in ideologies."

Ideologies don't make decisions. People make decisions, for good or for ill.

Every way to organize society has ...

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You're in the bedchamber of the dying King Henry IV (1366-1413), who united England through a bitter civil war.

King Henry awakens and gives some final advice to his son, Prince Harry:

"God knows, my son,
By what by-paths and indirect ...

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In high school, I had a friend who tipped me off that someone secretly hated me.

Pretty soon, however, I noticed that he told me the same thing about a lot of other people.

So either I was most hated person in the school or my "friend" was misinforming me.

The first explanation isn't impossible, but the latter is more ...

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This blog post isn't about what you'll at first think it's about. So bear with me.

The United Kingdom's National Trust was established in 1895 to showcase and protect Britain's national heritage. Among other things, it gives tours of historic sites such as famous castles and houses.

But ...

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Call me naïve ("You're naïve!" "Thank you."), but I believe that most people want to be good.

That doesn't mean that all people want to be good, or that most people are good all the time. Obviously, they're not.

But most people want to believe that they do what's right or at least what's allowed.

If ...

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What do DNA, psychological questionnaires, and my new car have in common?

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is a molecule in which plants and animals encode the basic characteristics of their bodies. It's what makes a rose a rose instead of a carrot. It makes some people tall and other people short. It affects almost every trait of living things ...

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"The past is a foreign country," advised British novelist L.P. Hartley.

And it's true: Most of us have quite enough trouble keeping up with the present. We're too busy to think much about the past.

Of course, there are different ways of thinking about the past, some ...

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"Abnormal" is not an insult. And "normal" is not a compliment.

People bend over backwards these days to avoid calling anything "abnormal." Apparently they think it might hurt someone's feelings.

For example, Robert Plomin's recent book ...

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Viewed from 2018, the world of pre-9/11 America looks like a model of peace and sanity.

It wasn't, of course, but compared to what we've had since then, it seems that way.

As of now, America's crisis du jour is a caravan of migrants trying to crash our southern border.

If I were in their situation, I'd probably try the ...

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What if we just can't agree about some issues?

Suppose that we've had calm, rational conversations with people on the other side of the dispute. It does happen occasionally.

And suppose that each side understands the other. People on each side believe that the people on the other side are sane, well-informed, and acting in good faith. ...

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You've probably heard the joke about why a ham sandwich is better than eternal happiness:

  • Nothing is better than eternal happiness.
  • And a ham sandwich is better than nothing.

A ham sandwich isn't perfect, but it's better than having no food at all.

Do you want to live in a perfect society? Find a perfect ...

Written by: N.S. Palmer | Posted on: | Category:

Social media started as an enjoyable way to chat with people who shared our interests.

But it soon developed a toxic side. It started to generate hostility and hysteria.

Crazed mobs started to harass and threaten people who made social media comments they didn't like. Well-funded political operations used social media to misinform and ...

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